Seguro Popular: Something to Think About

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary While many, many Americans are concerned what the Health Care Reform Act will mean for them, ordinary Mexicans do not have to worry about universal health care. Unlike the United States, the Mexican government passed a government program called Seguro Popular. This program provides free medical and emergency care to all Mexican nationals and legal residents in Mexico. It is voluntary—no one is forced to join it. For those Mexicans who do not have health insurance from their employer or are unable to obtain health care due to self-employment, there is Seguro Popular. The yearly cost of being in Seguro Popular is based on a sliding scale, and is meant to help everyone in Mexico. It was not easy creating this program—it took ten years and two presidents to finally get all of the bugs worked out and have this program passed by the Mexican Congress.

Since it was passed, the program has proven highly popular, and is able to reach people even in remote regions of the country. The program helps to not only provide free medical care to those poor who would otherwise not get medical help, but also provides free medical care to those in remote regions where before Seguro Popular there was no medical help. Seguro Popular employs competent doctors and nurses in areas where there were none, and in major metropolitan areas it employs very skilled and high quality doctors (many of them, according to some friends of mine who visited Mexico recently, bilingual in Spanish and English). The program has not only helped make access to health care more possible for ordinary Mexicans, but it has helped reduce the number of those who have suffered the after-effects of catastrophic injuries or illnesses.

The Seguro Popular program was created to help the self-employed, the desperately poor, and those remote villagers who could not pay for private insurance. This presents an important question for Americans. Under the U.S. Health Care Reform Act (also called Obamacare), how will self-employed and truly poor people in the United States be able to afford private insurance? How will Americans, who have no real access to medical care in many regions of the country, benefit from Obamacare anyways? The Health Care Reform Act did not solve any of these problems, and doubtless there will still be many people who will be wondering what to do. I believe that the U.S. government should take a good look at the Seguro Popular program.

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